This warm, savory Musakhan sumac chicken with caramelized onion flatbread will wow your taste buds in the best way possible! A Traditional Palestinian roast chicken dish, perfectly flavored and roasted to tender perfection, served with sweet caramelized onions, flatbread, and pine nuts. This recipe is adapted from The Palestinian Table (affiliate) and comes with my complete step-by-step tutorial and tips.
What is Musakhan?
In her book, The Palestinian Table (affiliate), my friend Reem Kassis shares her family's musakhan recipe, a traditional Palestinian chicken dish she most associates with her grandmother Teta Fatima
The name musakhan may mean nothing to you, but trust me, you need to be introduced to this rich, savory roast chicken from Palestine.
So what is Musakhan? Musakhan is roast chicken, heavily scented with sumac and and a few other warm spices and served with caramelized onion flatbread. It is the epitome of comfort food, Palestinian style.
Musakhan is traditionally served during the olive harvest to celebrate the olive oil pressing season, but it is definitely served year-round for family gatherings and more.
I've had musakhan chicken in the past, and absolutely loved it! And when I came across Reem's recipe, I decided it was time I tried my hand at it. I had Reem's blessing to alter the recipe and simplify it as I'm able for everyone here. But I promise you, this muskhan recipe is every bit as tasty and comforting.
Ingredients for Musakhan Sumac Chicken and Caramelized Onion Flatbread
Muskhan is about simple ingredients, prepared well. Here are the main components for this recipe:
1. Chicken: Perfectly seasoned chicken pieces, roasted to tender perfection. For best result, use bone-in, skin-on chicken. You can always debone the chicken and shred into smaller pieces for serving later (see note below.)
2. Onions: Unlike most recipes, onions here are actually a key ingredient not a mere addition for flavor. I used 6 yellow onions here (medium to large in size). Once chopped, the onions are seasoned and cooked down in quality extra virgin olive oil until nice and soft. They are caramelized further in the oven later (close all the doors around your house if you don't want the onion smell to fill every room:-).
3. Sumac & Spices: There is no shortage of flavor in this sumac chicken recipe! Bright and tangy ground sumac (from Mediterranean sumac berries) is the star flavor-maker. If you aren't familiar with sumac, get more info about it in our complete guide! To add more warmth and depth of flavor, a few other Middle Eastern spices are used for the chicken and also for the caramelized onions. They include: cumin, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg.
(find these spices at online shop here).
4- Flatbread. Traditionally, you would use taboon bread. But because that is not readily available here in the states, you can use other flatbread options like Greek pita bread or naan. You want a thicker type flatbread as it will be topped with the cooked onions and then the roast chicken for serving. If you use those think pita pockets, they won't hold well.
Musakhan (or sumac chicken) is not terribly difficult to make, but it is a more involved recipe with several steps to it. But trust me, the end result is so worth the effort.
I've made sure to break down the process step-by-step for you.
How to Make Musakhan Sumac Chicken: Step-by-Step & Tips
1. Make the spice mixture
This spice mixture will be used throughout the recipe, so it's good to have it prepared ahead and ready for use. In a small bowl, combine allspice, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix well.
Sumac will also be used several times, so keep your sumac bottle handy as well.
Tip: If you don't already have these spices, find them at our online shop
2. Prepare and cook the chicken
Pat chicken pieces dry and place them on a lightly oiled sheet pan (or roasting pan). Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, season with kosher salt on both sides. Add 1 teaspoon sumac and 1 ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture. Give the chicken a good rub with your hands. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and place on the middle rack of your heated oven. Roast for about 1 hour or until fully cooked (internal temperature should register 165 degrees F.)
TIP: For best flavor, make sure to lift the chicken skin and apply some of the spice mixture underneath.
TIP #2: You can season the chicken 1 night in advance. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook it the next day.
3. Prepare onion mixture for flatbread
While the chicken is roasting, work on the onions. In a large cooking skillet, put just over ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO) chopped onions, kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 2 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. This will may take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes, and your goal here is to cook the onions well until they quite soft, but you are not looking to brown the onions.
Tip: Onions should be chopped fairly small for this recipe. To help cook them down, add a bit of liquid, about 2 to 4 tablespoon of water at a time.
Tip #2: You can cook the onions in the skillet 1 night ahead of time and save them in a tight-lid glass container in the fridge.
4. Check on the chicken, and if ready, remove from the oven
Pour any roasting pan juices into the caramelized onions, adding more flavor to the flatbreads. Make sure to let the chicken rest for a bit, cover loosely with foil and set aside for 15 minutes while you assemble the flatbreads.
5. Prepare Flatbreads
Traditionally, musakhan uses Palestinian taboon bread, but I used Greek pita bread here. To assemble flatbreads, dip the edges of each bread in the oil on the surface of the onion mixture, you want the edges moistened so they don't burn under the broiler.
Work in batches, a couple of flatbreads at a time. Arrange flatbreads on a large baking sheet. Spread enough of the caramelized onion mixture on the surface of each flatbread, leaving a small border around the edge (like pizza). Add a generous sprinkle of sumac. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts. Place under the broiler briefly (2 to 4 mins), watching carefully, until edges are browned and onion mixture is caramelized.
6. Assemble and Serve Musahkan
When flatbreads are ready, top each with a chicken portion to serve.
Tip for serving Musakhan Sumac Chicken (a modern twist)
For some serving bone-in chicken over flatbread may seem intimating or inconvenient. To make it easier for your guests, once your chicken pieces are roasted, you can carefully debone them and add pieces of the deboned/shredded chicken on top of the caramelized onion flatbreads. You can even turn them into wraps for easy handling.
What to Serve with Musakhan Sumac Chicken?
This sumac chicken and caramelized onion flatbread is a beautiful, warm and comforting meal. The logical choice for a side is a side of tasty marinated olives and a big bright salad like this simple Mediterranean salad or even tabouli. I never mind a bowl of creamy baba ganoush dip to start this feast.
Looking for More Roast Chicken Recipes?
Greek Baked Chicken and Potatoes
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Musakhan: Sumac Chicken and Caramelized Onion Flatbread
- Total Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6
This warm, savory Musakhan sumac chicken with caramelized onion flatbread will wow your taste buds in the best way possible! A Traditional Palestinian roast chicken dish, perfectly flavored and roasted to tender perfection, served with sweet caramelized onions, flatbread, and pine nuts.
Be sure to check out the step-by-step photos above.
For Spice Mixture
- 3 tablespoon allspice
- 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¾ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 6 chicken legs, bone-in, skin on (if you like, divide the legs to thighs and drumsticks. You can also use chicken breast pieces, if you prefer.)
- Extra virgin olive oil (I used Greek Private Reserve EVOO)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 ½ tsp of spice mixture above
- Extra virgin olive oil (Greek Private Reserve EVOO again)
- 6 yellow onions, chopped
- Kosher slat
- 1 tbsp sumac, more for later
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon of spice mixture above
- Toasted pine nuts, about ⅓ cup or more to your liking
- 6 flatbread such as Taboon bread, Greek pita bread, or naan
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (or 190 degrees C)
- Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl, combine allspice, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix well.
- Prepare and cook the chicken. Pat chicken pieces dry and place them on a lightly oiled sheet pan (or roasting pan). Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, season with kosher salt on both sides. Add 1 teaspoon sumac and 1 ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture. Give the chicken a good rub with your hands, making sure to get the spices underneath the skin. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and place on the middle rack of your heated oven. Roast for about 1 hour or until fully cooked (internal temperature should register 165 degrees F.)
- Prepare caramelized onion mixture for flatbread. While the chicken is roasting, work on the caramelized onions. In a large cooking skillet, put just over ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, chopped onions, kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 2 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, adding a little bit of water (2tbsp or so at a time) as needed, until the onions have softened and cooked completely (about 30 to 40 minutes). Remove from heat.
- Check on the chicken, and if ready, remove from the oven. Pour any roasting pan juices into the caramelized onions. Cover chicken loosely with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes, while you assemble the flatbreads.
- Assemble Musakhan Flatbreads. Turn on your broiler. To assemble flatbreads, dip the edges of each bread in the oil on the surface of the onion mixture. Arrange flatbreads on a large baking sheet (you may do a couple flatbreads at a time). Spread enough of the caramelized onion mixture on the surface of each flatbread, leaving a small border around the edge (like pizza). Add a generous sprinkle of sumac. Add toasted pine nuts. Place under the broiler briefly (2 to 4 mins), watching carefully, until edges and onion mixture are nicely browned.
- To Serve Musakhan. When flatbreads are ready, top each with a chicken portion and serve along with a side of olives and simple Mediterranean salad.
- Cook's Tip to Prepare Ahead: You can season the chicken and refrigerate uncooked for 1 night. You can also prepare and cook the onions in the skillet 1 night in advance, keep in the fridge in air-tight container. When you are ready, follow the recipe for roasting the chicken and assembling the musakhan.
- Visit our Online Shop for sumac and spices and extra virgin olive oils used in this recipe!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
- Category: Entree
- Method: Roasted
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: Musakhan, Sumac Chicken, Palestinian recipe
I'd like to make this and have read the recipe carefully. As several commenters have noted, the spice mixture amounts in the prep don't match what is actually used in the recipe. The spice mixture makes just under 7 TBL of mixture. From that 1.5 tsp is used for the chicken and 2 tsp is used for the onions, totaling up to just over 1TBL total of the spice mixture actually used in the recipe.
So why make up just under 7 TBL of the spice mixture in the prep and use just over 1TBL of that same spice mixture total for the chicken and the onions?
Can you clarify?
This looks like a great musakhan recipe but there's still something wrong with the spice quantities. There's so much left over.
Hmm... we don't typically have leftovers of the spice mixture, but if that is the case, it can be used for meat or even a fish dish sometime.
My husband is Palestinian so this brought his back home eating this. It was so delicious. I made this for Iftar today. Wonderful.
Thanks so much, Michelle!
What do you do with the left over spice mixture?
Hmm...I don't recall having leftover of the spice mixture, but if that is the case, it can be used for meat or even a fish dish sometime.
This recipe is wonderful! But I think there's something wrong with the scaling calculator. I tried doubling and tripling the recipe on the calculator up there and most of the values didn't change. That's probably why we all have excess spice mix (and caramelized onions too), I think the calculator default is set at 3X.
Thanks for the heads up. We'll go in and take a look.
I’m making the dish right now. I also got spice leftover, I even “marinated” extra chicken. The recipe calls for good 4 tablespoons of mixed spices and uses only maybe 3 teaspoons. I guess I will use it for other dishes...
This is delicious!! I made my own naan to use as the flatbread and although it all took a while to come together it was totally worth the effort. The Mediterranean salad was a lovely accompaniment. I can't wait to have dinner parties and serve this meal to guests! It's my favourite thing I've made from your site so far. Thanks so much Suzy. 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Gabrielle! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!!
I just made this recipe three weeks after getting back to Jerusalem from the UK following lockdown, which feels very appropriate for this recipe!
It was absolutely divine, I have to say. I try to be low carb so i avoided most of the pita bread that I had used to serve it on, but then it looked so tempting with the chicken & onions juices that I couldn't resist - and it was worth every bite!
I discovered this recipe by googling uses for sumac and following a link, and am so pleased it brought me to this website, as I have just had a quick look at another cooking website's version and it doesn't look anywhere near as good as this one was!
Although it's a few steps to prepare, it's worth every bit of effort. Can't recommend it highly enough!
Thanks for sharing, Libby!!
I adapted your recipe for the Caramelized Onion Flatbread to make a pizza. Since my wife is celiac I prepared homemade gluten free pizza dough. I parbaked it and then I topped it with your caramelized onions, Since this was more than a side dish for chicken, I also added feta cheese, red peppers and pistachios. After the pizza was baked I added fresh herbs. It was a wonderful Mediterranean influenced pizza.
Thanks again for another great recipe.
I'm always looking for more ways to use sumac and this is on the menu for next week!
Great! I hope you enjoy, Kellie!
I made this yesterday. I can't even find the words to tell you how delicious this is. We live in a small town so I had to order sumac from your website. I used thighs and breasts along with the legs. The chicken was moist and flavorful. My 30 year old son and his girlfriend along with my husband said it was the best dish I have ever made. I'm 59 and I cook most of our meals so that is quite a compliment. I gave you full credit of course. Since there were no leftovers I am making it again to eat during the football playoffs. Go Chiefs! And keep those recipes coming Suzy.
That's so wonderful, Debbie! Thanks so much for sharing!
Packed with the most amazing flavor! My family really enjoyed it - I will make it again soon!
This flatbread has the BEST flavor! It was so so so yummy!
Made this flatbread for lunch and it is the best thing ever! So good!
I'm always looking for new flavors and this one HIT THE SPOT! My whole party loved it and wanted the recipe.
This looked so good I just had to try it! That blend of spices with the chicken was fantastic!
Such a great dinner option!
I love chicken and flatbread, and this recipe is so awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
We make this all the time and it's always a huge hit! Thank you!
This sounds perfectly flavorful! A great way to get us out of our normal chicken dinner rut. Thank you!
Goodness, this is so so good. Just follow the directions - the flavors are amazing!
I was a little nervous going in to this recipe as I'm not the best cook but it came out really well and we all enjoyed it! Will be making it again for sure, very tasty!
This was so delicious! So much flavor!